10 Easy Habits to Prevent Clutter Written by Pam Holland
Continuing our celebration of over 10 years mindfully decluttering and organizing in the DC metropolitan area, this list includes ten recommended habits to reduce clutter in your life!
Pam’s 10 Favorite Clutter-Preventing Habits
- Stop clutter at the source
See our free “Stop Clutter” PDF resource. If you don’t allow unneeded things into your home, you won’t have to clean, organize or declutter them!
- Mindfully create systems
Begin by noticing where clutter collects. These clutter-attracting places are often referred to as “hot spots.” Pick one hot spot and create a plan for where to keep the items that have collected there. Remember that clutter attracts clutter, so it can also be helpful to put something pretty in a former hot spot as a visual reminder to keep the space beautiful. See also our post on decluttering surfaces.
- Have a special place for important items (such as keys, mobile phone, and wallet) and anything else you tend to lose!
There are some items we need regularly: often we can’t leave the house without them, but it’s easy for them to get lost amid our things when we’re home. Even if you keep your wallet, mobile phone, and keys in your purse or briefcase, your mobile phone will often follow you around the house and your wallet may end up by the computer for a purchase! Have a designated place for each of these items.When you grab your keys to get something from the car, return them to their place when you’re finished. The place could be a surface with three sticky notes: one that says “keys,” one “phone,” and one “wallet.” Or you might use an attractive bowl in which you deposit these items when not in use. Or create the habit of always returning such objects to your purse or backpack!
- Say “no” to free stuff
There is a lot of free stuff floating around our lives. From swag bags at conferences to hand-me-downs from friends, a lot of the clutter in our homes came to us free, and it’s hard to say no to free stuff! But remember, most things are not truly “free.”If an item brings you stress, it’s taking a toll on your energy. Even if you didn’t buy it, it has a cost! Try gently declining free things, even if it feels counterintuitive. The more you do it, the stronger that “muscle” or habit will become. Your future self will thank you for less clutter. For alternative gift ideas that do not create clutter, click here.
- Have a Donation Box
As we go through our lives, we may look at something in our home and realize “I’m ready to let that go.” Have a donation box or bag ready for items like this. If you don’t have a place to put the item, it often stays where it is and brings your energy down. As soon as you are ready to let an object go, put it in the donation box. You will immediately feel the effect of less clutter in your living space. At your earliest opportunity, or when the container is full, donate it! Then you can celebrate the full effect of letting your items go and reclaiming the energy that was tied up in them.
- Declutter regularly
For many of us, “slow and steady wins the race.” Try designating five to ten minutes every day for decluttering. For some, winding down in the evening is a good time to declutter. For others, five minutes after coffee is the magic time. Identify a time that works for you. Set a timer and spend your time putting things away, tidying, and making your space look the way you want it. When the timer goes off, stop. Now, relax! If daily doesn’t work for you, try setting aside an hour each weekend. Stephanie Vogt’s book Your Spacious Self: Clear the Clutter and Discover Who You Are outlines this “slow drip” method of organizing and outlines why it is likely to be longer lasting and less stressful than the popular KonMari method.
- Put recycling or trash receptacles throughout your home
Placing receptacles in every room (and within easy reach) goes a long way toward keeping clutter at bay. For example: use a small paper bag for paper recyclables, a waste basket for trash, and a box or bag for “in transit” items. For more on this topic (complete with visual aids!) see our blog post on receptacle readiness.
- “Gonna fix that someday”
Fix, donate, trash or replace broken things in your home. Set a timeframe for completing a repair project and if you do not complete the task in the time that you committed to, simply admit (without beating up on yourself!) that it is not really on your priority list.
- Bad JuJu
Say goodbye to any items that have bad associations or negative memories. A wedding dress from a divorced spouse, a vase that was given to you by your aunt who never had a nice thing to say about you; you get the idea!
- Unfinished projects be gone!
Set aside time to complete any unfinished projects that are scattered throughout your home. You saved those materials for a reason, so make the time to use them. If the project no longer seems joyful, pass the supplies on to someone else!
Our spaces are often a reflection of our habits, whether long term (leaving half-finished projects undone) or short term (paper piles accumulating due to a stressful time at work). If your clutter brings you stress, consider how changing a habit could dramatically reduce the clutter in your home, thus making more room for new energy to flourish. In the words of Stephen Covey,
“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
What decisions do you want to make in your home or office? Let us know in the comments!
(If you purchase one of the books mentioned here on Amazon, I receive a small percentage of the sales price as a member of their affiliate program.)